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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden's Crucial Week on Voting Rights, Infrastructure, Police Reform; Ten Mass Shootings This Weekend Kill At Least Seven People; Source: DOJ Obtained Metadata from Schiff & Swalwell as Part of Probe Into a Senior Aide on House Intel Committee; Dr. Fauci Fights Back; New York Mayoral Race; U.S. Student Found Dead in Russia After Texting Her Mother: "I Hope I'm Not Being Abducted". Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 21, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Could this finally really actually be infrastructure week?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden's big plans hanging in the balance this week as a trillion dollars infrastructure deal picks up some steam and support from both Democrats and Republicans. But might the progressive left say that it needs to be their way or the highway?

It could be the weirdest and most unpredictable race in the history of America's biggest city. Why it is that nobody knows who's going to win tomorrow's Democratic primary vote for New York City's next mayor.

Plus, the frightening text message sent by an American student and former marine before she was mysteriously found dead in Russia.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with our politics lead and the make-or-break week ahead for President Joe Biden's ambitious agenda. Sources tell CNN that there is a new degree of optimism surrounding the bipartisan infrastructure talks in the U.S. Senate, and that President Biden is expected to become heavily involved in negotiations this week.

On election reform, Senator Chuck Schumer is bringing legislation to the floor tomorrow. It is not expected to pass, but the White House says this remains a priority for President Biden.

On policing reform, Republican Senator Tim Scott's June or bust deadline is approaching, and leaders from both parties continue to believe a deal can be reached.

But, for millions of Americans, the top story in their lives is a continued horrific uptick in crime, violent crime across the country, with word that President Biden will dedicate his public events on Wednesday to addressing possible solutions to the growing problem.

CNN's Phil Mattingly starts us off today from the White House.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president having served 36 years in the Senate, he's always going to be deeply involved.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden with his legislative agenda hanging in the balance, now pushing to close the deal.

PSAKI: He's always going to roll up his sleeves and want to know every detail of what's being discussed, every detail of the proposal and package.

MATTINGLY: Or at least a bipartisan one on infrastructure, where 21 senators including 11 Republicans are signed on to a trillion dollar framework that would include $579 billion in new spending, a pathway for Biden's long sought-after bipartisan hopes that burst into the open while he was traveling through Europe last week.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We're making progress, particularly on key investments that we need to build out our nation's infrastructure and prepare for the clean energy economy that is coming.

MATTINGLY: Biden looking to capitalize on that progress this week with calls and in-person meetings likely to occur, according to White House officials.

PSAKI: I suspect he'll have some members here over the next couple of days to have those discussions in person.

MATTINGLY: But while White House officials have cautious optimism, there's still plenty of road blocks ahead.

DEESE: We still have some sticking points particularly around how we pay for this.

MATTINGLY: Most notably, how to pay for the plan, with Biden dead set against increases to the gas tax.

DEESE: The president has been clear he just is not willing to do raising taxes on middle-class families.

MATTINGLY: The stakes enormous. The clock, ticking.

PSAKI: It is not weeks in his view in terms of moving forward and seeing if there's a bipartisan path forward. MATTINGLY: But White House officials tell CNN they see multiple

pathways to enacting Biden's $4 trillion economic agenda, and Democrats already at work on the painstaking process to unify around a measured move without Republicans, whether the bipartisan deal is clinched or not.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): That's what majority leader Schumer and I are working on right now, and it's not easy. We got 50 different Democratic senators in the caucus, each have their own priorities. But we got to bring people together.

MATTINGLY: But Republicans urging Biden to move quickly to sign onto the bipartisan talks.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you want to work with Republicans to spend a trillion dollars of -- on infrastructure, it's available to you.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Jake, White House officials I've spoken to firmly believe there is time to pursue this bipartisan deal. But they are also keenly aware of the anxiety levels, particularly amongst progressive Democrats on Capitol Hill. It was something that really kind of played out this morning. Biden's top legislative affairs officials having a call with House Democratic chiefs of staff, but they made clear they are still on this dual-track process.

However, Louisa Terrell, his top legislative affairs assistant, saying on that call, we are not going to waste our time, Jake. They know that the clock right now is ticking on their agenda.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's discuss right now.

Maeve Reston, the White House truly seems to think that, not just publicly, privately they say this too, that a deal with this bipartisan group of 20 senators is possible. They think it's even likely. Do you agree?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think it still seems fairly messy. While there is certainly the will there and particularly from both sides I was talking to a lot of sources looking ahead to the midterms next year who were saying that this is the one issue where Republicans would like to have something to run on, rather than running against the Democratic agenda. But, you know, obviously, how they would actually pay for this, what the end game number is, there still seems to be a lot to work out there.

And, at the same time, this is a really critical test for Biden. He ran all last year, telling the public that he was the dealmaker, and he understood the Senate better than anyone. And, I mean, now -- now is the time for him to show that this week.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika Henderson, Biden said if the deal is reached he can find a way to appease the concerns coming from the progressive left who want it to be huge, who want it to include what they call personal infrastructure, childcare, want it to be very green. But this is what he's up against. Take a listen.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Are we passing a deal that makes the most jobs? Are we passing a deal that brings down the most climate emissions? Are we passing a deal that raises wages and actually improves our infrastructure for the next generation? And if a bipartisan deal sucks up trillions of dollars and bridges to nowhere because it makes people feel good, then that's going to be a huge concern.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah. I mean, you have a situation where progressives essentially held their breath, right, and voted for Biden. They very much wanted to get Donald Trump out of office, and they put Biden in the office. And so, now, they are asking for Biden to, you know, pay them back, essentially, and pay up in terms of a really big infrastructure program, human infrastructure, as it's called.

And you mentioned some of the things and so did Ocasio-Cortez. But, A, it's unclear whether or not there is one deal to be made or two deals to be made, right? Is there a human -- is there a sort of a human infrastructure bill that's more massive that you can actually get somebody like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to sign onto? And is there sort of a bipartisan deal that might go first?

So there is this kind of two-track very messy system, as you said. But in the meantime, you have progressives who are very frustrated with this idea that they're going to cut this kind of skinny infrastructure bill and really cut out the big-ticket items that they very much want to see from this presidency.

What is the Biden presidency for if it's not for big-ticket items? We, of course, saw with the Obama administration, what was the one big thing they were able to do? Obamacare. This is Biden's one big chance really to get something done, because after this, you don't have much time and you certainly don't have any sort of reconciliation chances left after this.

MAEVE: Yeah.

TAPPER: But these Senate Republicans, who know Biden and know that he does like to cut bipartisan deals, that was his reputation in the Senate, that's part of how he pitched himself to the American people as a presidential candidate. They are sending a very clear signal to him publicly and, presumably, privately, like this is the best thing you're going to get. Take a listen.


GRAHAM: I think the difference between this negotiation and the earlier negotiation is that we're willing to add more new money to infrastructure in this package.

I would just say this. President Biden, if you want an infrastructure deal of a trillion dollars, it's there for the taking. You just need to get involved and lead.

REP. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): I think we're absolutely committed to it. And I think there is a number of others on both sides of the aisle. Last week, I heard from a lot of my colleagues saying I just need to look at one other issue, you know, can you do this, can you do that? But there's a lot of interest in having a bipartisan proposal.


TAPPER: We should note that Lindsey Graham and Rob Portman do have -- they're very conservative Republicans, but they do have a record of working in bipartisan groups.

RESTON: They do, absolutely. But I think that that is a very clear message about just how far they are willing to go. And just as Nia was talking about, we have been talking about it as this interesting Rubik's cube. If the Republicans know that there's going to be a skinny infrastructure deal they going to go along with that plan if they know there's going to be some huge package to please progressives that goes through reconciliation?

I mean, it would be really interesting to see what promises Biden makes to both sides because he's in a very difficult position. And, you know, this is the test of how he figures out how to solve this puzzle and please both sides and actually have something that everyone can talk about next year in the midterms.

TAPPER: And meanwhile, tomorrow we know that Chuck Schumer's going to bring up for a procedural vote this sweeping election form legislation. It's not expected to pass.


Vice President Kamala Harris, she has been tasked with getting something through Congress, some sort of election reform legislation. Is there a deal to be made there at all?

HENDERSON: I don't think so. If you think about what the Republican Party has done, you know, over the last many years, particularly if you go back to 2008, they have wanted to make voting harder, right? That has been essentially the motive of their party because they think they do better when fewer voters vote and when it's harder to vote. Democrats have wanted to do something very different, which is make it much easier to vote.

So the idea that they can come together with some sort of compromise in getting ten Republicans to go against essentially Republican Party orthodoxy, it's just very, very hard to believe that they're going to be able to get that many Democrats on board.

RESTON: And we don't know what Vice President Harris' role is. There hasn't been much clarity, particularly on voting rights, about exactly what role she's going to play here. I mean, her folks have talked about, like, an inside/outside approach, she was meeting in Georgia with activists last week.

But we haven't really seen her get out in front on this issue yet. And obviously that would be something if she runs for president down the road, that could be something that would help us sort of expand her portfolio. But I think we're all watching to see what more she's going to do.

TAPPER: Yeah. Meanwhile, you got to get Joe Manchin on board if you want to get -- if you want to get something done before you even work on the Republicans.

Maeve, Nia, thanks so much. Good to see both of you. I appreciate it.

Coming out of a pandemic and into a crossfire, children the victims in yet another weekend of mass shootings across America. Why does this continue to happen, why is it getting worse?

And as the U.S. prepares to leave the Taliban, they're moving in, what could that mean for the plan to end America's longest war? That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our national lead, from Alaska to New Jersey, a weekend of senseless violence across the United States, again. A total of ten mass shootings, leaving at least seven people dead, at least 45 other Americans were injured including two children.

CNN's Amara Walker now reports on why the United States is seeing such an uptick in mass shootings as the pandemic winds down.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Americans emerge from one pandemic, what the White House calls a public health epidemic of gun violence, is surging across the country. At least ten mass shootings happening in nine different states over the weekend from Alaska to New Jersey, leaving seven dead, 45 others injured.

Several occurring where crowds gathered including in Aurora, Colorado, where a group was celebrating the new Juneteenth federal holiday in a shopping mall parking lot early Sunday. One person killed, four injured.

ANTHONY CHAMBRAY, AURORA RESIDENT: Eager to get out and have some fun, tired of being cooped up, and this is crazy.

WALKER: Around the same time, another Juneteenth celebration in Indiana, ending with gun violence, killing one and injuring four. In Oakland, California, police say one person was killed and six hurt as gunshots rang out in a crowd of 5,000 people near Lake Merritt. And in Dallas, Texas, a 10 and 15-year-old among the eight people injured in a shooting.

Former Philadelphia police commissioner and former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey weighs in on one factor contributing to the rising violence.

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, listen, you got guns in the hands of people that should not have guns, and Congress is doing absolutely nothing. Some state legislatures are doing absolutely nothing. Texas just passed a law letting anybody carry a gun that wants to, which, in my opinion is exactly the wrong way to be moving right now.

WALKER: There have been nearly 300 mass shootings so far this year, according to the gun violence archive. That's a 39 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2020.

CNN defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, not including the shooter. Some law enforcement officials say they're concerned about the violence spiking further during the summer months as they try to understand the root of this crisis.

CHIEF SHON BARNES, CITY OF MADISON POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're trying to determine, what are the ramifications of coming out of a pandemic? What are the frustrations that are Americans feeling? How are we dealing with mental health? How are we dealing with some of the stressors related to unemployment in this country? And so these are the things that I think we have to wrap our heads around.


WALKER (on camera): So, Jake, it goes without saying that authorities are concerned about a potentially bloody summer of gun violence ahead. You know, major U.S. cities saw a 33 percent increase in homicides in 2020. That is according to the major cities chiefs association.

Here in Atlanta, the police department reporting a 45 percent increase in 2020, and shooting incidents compared to the same period last year, including an incident that just happened here last week at the Big Bear supermarket where a cashier was shot and killed over a face mask dispute -- Jake.

TAPPER: Oh, man. Amara Walker, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

In our politics lead, new developments on the Trump Justice Department subpoenas for Apple to give them metadata of some of his political enemies in Congress and their staffers to see if they were leaking information to journalists. The subpoena that swept up the records of two Democratic congressmen, then House Intelligence ranking member, Adam Schiff, and Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, their staffs, family members in 2018 -- initially, the probe was actually targeting a senior aid on the house intelligent committee and not the lawmakers themselves.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now to tell us more.

Evan, tell us. EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, look, even if it is only targeting a senior aide and not the two members of Congress, there are still a lot of questions as to why this was handled the way it was. If you remember, part of the story here has been that all of the officials -- senior officials at the time basically have said they didn't know about it.

And so, the question for the Justice Department is, why is that?


Are they -- are they telling the truth? Did they receive memos and perhaps didn't read them?

There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered because we know that once these investigators, they were focusing or scrutinizing a senior aide, even then they had to know that they were going to touch communications or at least the records of two members of Congress. And of course a lot of people are suspicious because they're talking not just two members of Congress, we're talking two Democrats who were prominent critics of the former president. And we know how obsessed he was with leaks on the Russia investigation.

That's the reason why there is now an investigation, and there are still so many questions that Merrick Garland, the attorney general, has to answer about what went on here and why it was handled this way.

TAPPER: And politically sensitive investigations have changed how the Justice Department handles these cases.

PEREZ: Well, they are changing. Yu can tell from garland that one of the things they want to do is look at what happened here and see how they can change it for future investigations. And also the other thing, Jake, is they have to go looking around, they want to continue looking around to see if there are any other surprises that are still lurking in the shadows of the Justice Department. They keep getting surprised by things like this that are coming back from the Trump/Barr era.

TAPPER: And we know that it was subpoenas of metadata of reporters at "The New York Times", "The Washington Post," CNN, Democratic staffers. And we still don't have any evidence that any crime was uncovered ever.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. None of those cases have seemed to have yielded anything.

TAPPER: Very suspicious.

Evan Perez, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The New York City mayor's race is becoming a game of survivor, including an unlikely alliance in the closing minutes of the Democratic primary campaign.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

And an ugly response to a last-minute plot twist in the already chaotic campaign for New York City's next mayor with primary election day just hours away. Two of the race's most high-profile Democratic candidates, former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, and former city sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, decided to campaign together.

Now, New York City has ranked voting, which means voters can support more than one candidate on their ballots. And, theoretically, Yang supporters could mark Garcia as their second choice, and vice versa. And, theoretically this partnership could siphon support from the man currently leading in the polls, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams who is black and whose campaign responded to the Yang/Garcia alliance with wild and baseless insinuations that that partnership will disenfranchise black voters.

And that charge, in turn, prompted criticism from a different black mayoral candidate as CNN's Athena Jones reports.



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the frenetic final days in the race to lead New York City --

ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I never had a doubt not one day that we were not going to win this.

JONES: Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, whose scant public polling suggest is the frontrunner in the race, keeping the focus on public safety.

ADAMS: I'm not going back to the days where our babies were waking up to gunshots and not alarm clocks.

JONES: Meanwhile, in a last-minute twist, two of the other leading Democratic mayoral candidates, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, and businessman Andrew Yang, making a series of campaign stops together.

KATHRYN GARCIA (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Today, Andrew Yang and I are campaigning together.

ANDREW YANG (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: So thrilled to be campaigning with Kathryn Garcia today.

JONES: The push coming as voters make their picks under a new voting system that allows them to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. The method allows for instant runoffs if, as expected, no one in the crowded field wins more than 50 percent of first-choice ballots in the first round. And it means being someone's second or third choice could make a difference.

But while Yang has repeatedly asked his voters to rank Garcia --

YANG: If you support me, please vote for Kathryn Garcia also on your ballot.

JONES: Garcia has declined to do the same.

GARCIA: Let me be very clear, I'm not co-endorsing.

JONES: Still, their joint appearance drawing the ire of Adams and his supporters. One likening it to voter suppression.

Adams' campaign retweeting supporter Ashley Sharpton, daughter of Reverend Al Sharpton, who suggested the apparent alliance was aimed at disenfranchising black voters. And Adams saying --

ADAMS: It is opportunistic. And I was troubled that it was done on Juneteenth. It just goes to show you that they would do anything possible to try to win.

JONES: Civil rights lawyer who has emerged as the top progressive candidate in the field pushing back, saying: Ranked-choice voting -- or alliances formed from it -- is not voter suppression.


JONES (on camera): Meanwhile, in a race that has been dominated by concerns over rising crime on New York streets and subways, a volunteer for the Adams campaign is recovering from surgery after being stabbed multiple times Sunday night. It's not clear if the incident was related to this volunteer's work for the Adams campaign. Police are investigating -- Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Let's discuss the New York mayor's race with CNN's resident election forecaster Harry Enten who also happens to be a New York City voter.


Harry, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you say this is the most unpredictable New York City mayoral race in half-a-century. Why?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Look at the polls right now. Look at just the first choice. We will get into rank choice a little bit later on.

Look at this. Eric Adams is ahead, but at just 23 percent, Garcia, Wiley, Yang all back in the mid teens. That's very, very tight. And more than that, take a look, Adams at 23 percent. Put that into historical context, and what we see is 23 percent for the candidate leading in the first choice is the weakest for any Democratic primary lead going all the way back since the end of the last century. Look at that, 23 percent, way less than Mark Green's 29 percent or Bill Thompson back in 2009 at 49 percent.

It makes it very unpredictable. But why is Adams out in front? Here's why. He is putting together the Joe Biden coalition on a local level. Look at this. This is his strongest groups, 43 percent with black voters, 33 percent with moderates or conservatives, 29 percent with older voters, and 29 percent with non-college graduates.

A lot of those folks aren't on Twitter. And I think a lot of people in the media have been somewhat surprised at Adams out in front, but he's leading with the groups that make up a large portion of Democratic electorate, at least here in New York.

TAPPER: So, in New York, voters can actually select more than one candidate on their ballots in what is called ranked choice voting. Explain how that works.

ENTEN: Sure.

So, look, you get a ballot, right? And you basically can fill it out here. This is an example of a ballot. You can fill out one, two, three, four, up to five choices. But that is not where it ends, right? So, basically, here are the rules.

And what the rules are, everyone can rank up their ballots. They can make up to five choices. The candidate with the lowest vote total after a round is eliminated, and the vote -- their votes are then allocated to their next preference, if the candidate that they first chose is eliminated.

And this elimination process continues until one candidate has at least 50 percent, plus one of the vote. And we're definitely going to need to go through this.

And here's here's an example of how this sort of works, right? This is from Marist College poll. And what we essentially see here, as you can see, Andrew Yang gets 19 percent. He's the lowest candidate in round 10 where we're jumping in here. So he gets eliminated. His votes then go. And then Maya Wiley, at 27 percent, she's now the lowest candidate.

Her votes then get reallocated. And Eric Adams, at least in this particular poll, ends out on top. But, of course, we will have to wait and see if that's ultimately how it turns out.

TAPPER: How much of a difference could the Yang-Garcia campaigning together alliance make this late in the game?

ENTEN: It could make a big difference. And here's the reason why Eric Adams is so upset with this.

The Marist College poll, if you look at it, if your first choice was, say, Andrew Yang, who was the most common second choice for them? It was Eric Adams. So the Adams lead that we see once we get through all the ranked choice is basically built on the idea that he's going to pick up a large portion of that Andrew Yang vote. If in fact those Yang voters decide to go to Garcia instead, it could change the entire math. And that, my friend, is one of the reasons why this race is just so unpredictable.

TAPPER: All right, Harry Enten, thanks so much. Good to see you.

ENTEN: Nice to see you.

TAPPER: Dr. Fauci pushing back hard against what he calls the craziness of some of the criticism he's faced. We will talk about that next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our health lead now.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is defending himself against critics who say that he misled the public with mask guidance early in the pandemic. Take a listen to Fauci on Kara Swisher's "New York Times" podcast, "Sway."


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The people who are giving the ad hominems are saying, ah, Fauci misled us. First, he said, no masks, then he said masks.

Well, let me give you a flash. That's the way science works. People who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science. It was not a change because I felt like flip-flopping. It was a change because the evidence changed, the data changed.


TAPPER: Let's get right to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, what do you make of Fauci's defense of the public health guidance changing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the science does change. I mean, that's the thing. I mean, people oftentimes expect science to be like math, two plus two is always going to equal four.

But we're constantly learning new things in science and techniques within the world of neurosurgery, for example, my world. Science overall continuously changes.

I think, to be specific, Jake, the big thing that changed with regard to masks in this particular pandemic was the realization, something that had never happened before, according to Dr. Fauci, that this was spreading primarily, this virus was spreading primarily asymptomatically.

And that's when it became clear that, look, you may not know you have the virus, you may not have any symptoms, you may not have been able to get tested, you need to wear a mask, because you could still be spreading the virus. We didn't know that at the beginning. Nobody knew that.

You know, nobody had all the information about this in the beginning. But, as we learned this, I think that's how -- why the recommendations changed.


I remember Vice President Pence being in this studio, actually, telling me in February or March that people shouldn't go out and buy masks. It wasn't -- he wasn't trying to mislead anybody. That's what the experts were saying, not just Fauci, but the World Health Organization.

If we have another pandemic or public health crisis, which we probably will, should Americans feel positive about trusting initial reports and guidance from public health officials, given the fact that the science does change?

GUPTA: I think, with that sort of caveat. You have got just sort of be flexible and understand that things may change and that the scientists continue to collect data on something.


I think the big question, Jake, will be, how willing are we to sort of apply the precautionary principles? I mean, you could right away, as soon as something starts to crop up, you hear about a few people becoming infected with a new virus, you could immediately say, we're going to lock down, we're going to do all these things very aggressively.

How are you going to apply the precautionary principle with the emerging data? I think that's going to be the balance. I don't think that the -- what the scientists are telling people is going to be wrong are not reflecting the data. It's going to be really a question of how much people are willing to listen to it.

I think, Jake, if you look at Asia, Hong Kong, for example, they reacted very quickly to this particular pandemic. In part, I think it's because they got hit so hard with SARS. There was just that muscle memory. We may be the same way next time. As soon as something starts to crop up, or we feel that there's a threat, we may react much more quickly.

Hopefully, we do. But I think the scientists, you got to let them do their job and continue to give you the best evidence-based recommendations.

TAPPER: A new study by Helix found that the Delta variant -- that's this variant of the coronavirus first identified in India -- it has a higher transmission rate than the original variant -- it's tearing through U.S. counties that have lower vaccination rates.

What's your biggest concern about this variant?

GUPTA: Well, just to give you some context, so this is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was the U.K. variant, and that was 50 percent more transmissible than the variant before that, than the strain before that.

So this is way more transmissible. That's the big concern. Two issues. One is that, if you're vaccinated, I think you have got really good protection. You can see that on the screen there. It obviously goes down after -- you got to get both doses. As you can see there, if you get just one dose, it drops down a lot. Get both doses, and you get good protection against these variants.

There's two concerns. One is primarily for the unvaccinated population. But, Jake, I think there's a more nuanced concern as well. And that is that, as this virus just continues to spread more and more, because there's not enough vaccinated people there, you will get more mutations.

Many of those mutations may be harmless, innocuous, inconsequential. But every now and then, you may get another mutation, which could start to be even more transmissible than the Delta variant. It could start to escape the immunity of the vaccines.

Luckily, we haven't seen that yet.


GUPTA: But those are the two big concerns, unvaccinated primarily, but all of us eventually.

TAPPER: So, Sanjay, quickly, if you can, the Fourth of July deadline that Biden gave, it's just two weeks away. He said that he hoped all states would get to the 70 percent guidelines, 70 percent level with at least one shot.

Only 16 states and Washington, D.C., have so far. We're not going to make it, are we?

GUPTA: No, it doesn't look like it, Jake.

I mean, we could show you the graph of how vaccine demand has sort of gone down. These were the most in-demand commodities on the planet at one point. Now you can barely give them away. We would have to be vaccinating about 750,000 people a day to get to that point. We're about 380,000.

But we're still in really good shape, I think, overall, Jake. Obviously, the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations and deaths keep going down. It'll probably be end of July at this pace before we get to that 70 percent number.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

An American student, former Marine found dead in Russia -- the terrifying last text that she sent to her mother.

That story's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a suspect is in custody and charged with the murder of an American woman and former U.S. marine who was studying law in Russia, but many questions remain about her death. The last message, text message that Catherine Serou sent to her mother said, quote, I'm in a car with a stranger, I hope I'm not being abducted, unquote.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is at the U.S. State Department for us.

Kylie, have officials there at the State Department said anything about her death?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, State Department official confirmed the death of Catherine Serou and this awful tragedy, which, quite frankly, still has a lot of questions surrounding it.

I asked the State Department if they believe the Russian investigation to be credible. They didn't respond to that. But they did say that they are closely monitoring this Russian investigation.

Now, a local court told CNN over the weekend that they had identified and arrested a suspect who is suspected of murdering Catherine. Now, Catherine was a 34-year-old American. She was in school at a local university east of Moscow. The last time that she was in touch with anyone, according to Russian investigators, was when she reached out to her mother to tell her mother that she was in a car with an unidentified person, was worried about being abducted. And then Russian investigators say that she was stabbed at least twice.

Now the State Department also says that they are in touch with her family. They offer them their deepest condolences. But there are still a lot of questions here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us. Thanks so much.

Just in to our world lead, sources telling CNN the top figures in President Biden's National Security Council are getting together today to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. service members from Afghanistan, as we also learned that the Taliban are increasingly gaining ground in that country, overthrowing dozens of districts in the north, some rural areas fell easily because, for the most part, no one there put up a fight. Others are fighting back, especially those on the outskirts of key cities such as Kunduz.

Let's bring in CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. Nic, what does this tell us about how Biden's withdrawal of U.S. service members from Afghanistan is affecting the country and the region?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There was a real hope that while this withdrawal went on that the Afghans, the Afghan government and the Taliban would actually get into some kind of meaningful peace talks. That's just an aspiration, and it hasn't happened.


And the reality is that the Taliban are taking the drawdown as an opportunity to militarily extend their control over the country. I was there in the '90s, and the places they've been taking control of over the past couple of days, couple of weeks in the north of the country were some of the last that they got their hands on during the '90s. They started from the south and moved up.

It appears that they're assuming that they've got control and a strong foothold in the south and east, their natural sort of territory, if you will, and they're going after these areas in the north. What it tells us is that the drawdown is leaving the Afghan military short of critical air power provided by the United States and NATO partners. That's emboldening the Taliban and weakening the resolve of the Afghan military.

We've seen situations over the past couple of days where they have literally put down their weapons, surrounded in the face to the Taliban, handed over U.S.-made up-armored Humvees and all sorts of military equipment. It's not how the Biden administration really imagined this might work.

TAPPER: What do officials in Kabul plan to do about the Taliban taking over so much of the country?

ROBERTSON: You know, there's really a sort of schism between reality of what's happening in the provinces and what the Afghan government is sort of trying to play down the Taliban gains. You know, in the past they've been able to push them out of some of these district centers that they're taking control of now. But they've done that with the support of NATO and U.S. forces. That is absent today.

So, on the one hand you have officials in Kabul saying it's going to be okay, we've got control of these areas. What they're doing is sending in forces to some of these areas. I was talking to one young military commander in the north, U.K. sort of top professional army training, if you will. But what he's dealing with, district centers that he thinks it could take weeks for him to retake that from the Taliban, meanwhile his defending and putting troops out in the main city, Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north.

This is -- you know, the Afghan government is coming up short. And what that's doing to the government, it's fragmenting it and weakening it. The Taliban are taking areas in the north that typically wouldn't be natural homeland territory for them. And that's going to put increasing pressure on the government in Kabul to hold together in all the differences that exist there.

TAPPER: I mean, is the country going to hold based on what may happen next? Or is it going to be Kabul as its own little island, and the rest of the country controlled by the Taliban?

ROBERTSON: You know, there's a real feeling that Taliban are just so ill liked in places like Kabul, there's no way they can walk in as they did in the '90s and take control of the city. But there's also this real sense that that central control, the glue that sort of the international community, the United States in particular, the glue that kept that fractious Afghan government together is no longer there. So that interwoven, interethnic agreements are breaking down.

And you have officials now who are looking to the sort of old warlord regional ethnic division/ethnically divided society as a way to protect themselves. This is the direction of travel at the moment. For those real experts in Kabul at the moment, western experts, they wonder, Jake, just how long this government can hold together.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A Supreme Court decision may change college sports as we know it. What that means for the athletes and for the NCAA. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, parents about to be paid, help on the way to millions of families in the U.S. Why it could help many of them get back to work.

And probably the coolest video you'll see today. Why the U.S. Navy caused an underwater earthquake on purpose.

But, first, leading this hour, the Supreme Court sending shockwaves of its own today for places like Tuscaloosa and South Bend and Chapel Hill with a unanimous decision and a major victory for college athletes that could reshape college athletics forever. The court ruling that student athletes in the NCAA division can receive payments for education-related expenses.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing in a concurrence, quote: Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair-market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair-market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law, unquote.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now.

Jessica, do we know how much athletes will be able to make?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this certainly does pave the way for college athletes to get paid. But this does not permit for direct cash payments.

Now, under this unanimous decision from the Supreme Court, the NCAA can not limit education-related payments.